Why Eating Fish Helps Keep Your Brain Healthy and Improves Memory

Scientists have long recommended eating fish, as seafood comes with some serious benefits, like supporting heart and brain health. Of course, all good things in moderation, so eating fish every single day may not be the best choice. For example, some farmed fish are high in fat and contain pollutants. But enough of the negatives. Let’s get back to the basics of what makes fish so great.

Fish does the body good

salmon sushi rolls

Salmon is great for boosting brain health. | iStock.com

For starters, fish is a great source of omega-3s. According to Harvard School of Public Health, these polyunsaturated fatty acids protect the heart, lower blood pressure, and lower triglycerides. Additionally, fish is also rich in vitamin D, selenium, and protein, and is low in saturated fat.

Thanks to its heart-healthy qualities, the American Heart Association recommends eating fish twice a week. And that shouldn’t be a problem, considering all the fantastic seafood recipes out there. Despite this, a lot of people are still falling short in the seafood consumption category. In fact, NPR reports 80 to 90% of Americans don’t get the recommended two servings of fish a week. If you’re one of the many folks who needs to up their intake, there’s even more reason to start doing so immediately.

Fish is good for your brain

grilled fish

Fish could help you fight off cognitive decline. | iStock.com

Dementia is a very real possibility for some, and losing your memory is no doubt a scary process. But if you like fish, there’s good news. A study published in JAMA in 2016 supports fish as brain-healthy food. According to the researchers’ cross-sectional analyses, “moderate seafood consumption was correlated with lesser Alzheimer disease neuropathology.” This just adds to the growing body of evidence proving fish is chock full of health benefits.

Supplements won’t cut it

fish oil capsules

Fish oil supplements may not support brain health the way you would expect. | iStock.com/Ls9907

Bad news for the fish supplement companies out there. Boosted brain power may not be directly associated with omega-3s. It turns out, the brain protective benefits found in people who consume fish may reap the benefits specifically from the food. In a 2015 study, researchers at the National Institutes of Health followed 4,000 patients over a span of five years. What they discovered was a bit of a surprise.

Emily Chew, M.D., deputy director of the Division of Epidemiology and Clinical Applications, and study author said, “Contrary to popular belief, we didn’t see any benefit of omega-3 supplements for stopping cognitive decline.” So basically, it’s important that you consider swapping out your omega-3 supplements for the real deal.

Where to find the most beneficial omega-3s

seafood stew with tomatoes and parsley

Shellfish does the brain good, too. | iStock.com

There are three omega-3 fatty acids: alpha-linolenic acid, eicosapentaenoic acid, and docosahexaenoic acid. According to the National Center for Complimentary and Integrative Health, the latter two are found in fatty fish, such as salmon, tuna, and trout, along with shellfish, such as crab, mussels, and oysters.

DHA is the big one here, as it’s important for brain development and function. So, the next time you’re at the grocery store, remember the fish. You might even start doing a better job of remembering it after you begin eating it in the first place.

Susmita Baral also contributed to this story